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Gove confirms mandatory housebuilding targets for councils will be abolished in face of Tory rebellion – UK politics live | Politics


Gove confirms levelling up bill will be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets for councils

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has sent a letter to Tory MPs confirming that the government will water down housebuilding targets, PA Media reports. PA says Gove told the MPs the levelling up bill would be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets.

Gove said he recognises “there is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area” but the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”.

The change would make the centrally determined target a “starting point”, with councils able to propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area.

The bill is expected to return to the Commons next week for day two of its report stage, PA says.

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Labour says housing target U-turn confirms ‘weak’ Sunak ‘in office but not in power’

Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling up secretary, says the Rishi Sunak U-turn over housebuilding targets (see 5.03pm and 5.10pm) shows that the “weak” PM is in office but not in power.

If this is true, it would be unconscionable in the middle of a housing crisis.

We offered Labour votes to defeat the rebels, but Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove seem to have chosen party before country.

This is so weak. In office but not in power. https://t.co/2bp9bGpuNG

— Lisa Nandy (@lisanandy) December 5, 2022

Gove confirms levelling up bill will be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets for councils

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has sent a letter to Tory MPs confirming that the government will water down housebuilding targets, PA Media reports. PA says Gove told the MPs the levelling up bill would be amended to abolish mandatory housebuilding targets.

Gove said he recognises “there is no truly objective way of calculating how many new homes are needed in an area” but the “plan-making process for housing has to start with a number”.

The change would make the centrally determined target a “starting point”, with councils able to propose building fewer homes if they faced “genuine constraints” or would have to build at a density that would “significantly change the character” of their area.

The bill is expected to return to the Commons next week for day two of its report stage, PA says.

Tory rebels force Sunak to abandon plans to maintain mandatory housing targets for councils

Rishi Sunak has agreed to give in to the key demand of the Tory planning rebels who were backing an amendment to the levelling up bill that would have abolished mandatory housebuilding targets for councils, Daniel Martin and Christopher Hope report at the Telegraph.

This amounts to a significant victory for Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary who tabled the rebel amendment backed by more than 50 Tory backbenchers. She told the Telegraph:

The government has listened and will amend planning rules so that councils which are subject to genuine constraints will be permitted to reduce their [housing] target. This will apply if meeting the centrally determined target would significantly change the character of an area, for example from suburban to high-rise urban.

The compromise we have secured shows that positive change can be achieved through backbench scrutiny of legislation.

And Bob Seely, another Tory who signed the amendment, told the Telegraph:

We know how many communities have been battling against bad development. Supported by well over 100 Tory MPs, we have helped ministers shape a housing and planning agenda which is more conservative than the one we currently have.

Targets will be advisory, not mandatory. The power of planning inspectors is weakened. Rules which have helped developers force councils to release land will be weakened.

The new language we’ve agreed will work with communities, speaking to the character of areas and celebrating the beauty of good design. It understands the need for farmland, will significantly emphasise brownfield over greenfield development, and will help deliver homes for young people.

Seely’s final claim is questionable. Critics claim that watering down the housing targets will make it harder for people to build new homes for young people.

This is not Sunak’s first U-turn – the Mirror has a list of some others here – but it is the first time as PM has backed down in the face of a revolt by Tory MPs.

And he has retreated, or compromised, even thought he was in no risk of losing the vote, because the Villiers amendment did not have Labour support.

The Electoral Reform Society has joined other pro-PR organisations in saying the Labour report should have included PR. This is from Jess Garland, the ERS’s director of policy and research.

We welcome Labour’s proposals for renewing out democracy – a clear sign that Labour is correctly putting democracy at the heart of their plans to modernise Britain.

From further devolving powers to local communities, cleaning up our elections by taking big money out of politics to, the overdue abolition of the unelected and unaccountable House of Lords, these proposals offer a blueprint for much-needed democratic renewal.

But any new elected second chamber must be fairly elected and to ensure every voter, as well as every nation and region, is appropriately represented. But if the same principle of fair representation is not too extended to the House of Commons, a glaring hole will be left in Britain’s new constitutional settlement.

Brown says electoral reform was never meant to be part of his inquiry. There are many different electoral systems used in the UK, he says. Any proposals relating to voting systems should be for the manifesto, he says.

And that’s it. The Q&A is over.

Brown says he is not proposing a new second chamber should take over from the House of Commons. The Commons is the chamber that is supreme, he says.

But he says he wants to see a second chamber that upholds the constitution.

The panel are now taking media questions.

Q: In 2019 Labour promised to give Holyrood borrowing powers. Why have you not matched those?

Brown says the new chancellor will consult on new borrowing powers for the Scottish parliament.

Q: Why don’t you put these proposals to the people in a referendum?

Starmer says the manifesto will be a clear statement of what a Labour government would do. If Labour wins, it will have a mandate for that change, including a mandate for change in Scotland.

Starmer says Labour will consult on this report. But that won’t be a “vague exercise”, he says. It will be a “statement of intent”.

He says he wants that process to happen now, not after the election.

Brown claims that, since 2016, the Conservatives have undermined the devolution settlement. In particular he criticises the government of ignoring the Sewel convention, which says Westminster should not legislate on devolved matters without the consent of the devolved governments.

Sarwar says the SNP and the Tories both make a virtue of conflict because neither of them believe in devolution. Labour does, and wants to make it work, he says.

Starmer claims Brown commission report will be seen as ‘turning point’ between old economy and new one

Keir Starmer says the Labour proposals in relation to economic clusters (see 9.38am) are extremely important. They are central to what the report is about, he says. These proposals could lead to the report being a turning point, he says. He says in the future people will look back at it and see that the report was “the turning point between an old economy that wasn’t working, and a new economy that actually has worked for the whole of the United Kingdom”.

Gordon Brown says people know that new jobs are not going to just come from big, established companies. They will come from innovative firms, and newly emerging sectors. These firms are all around the UK. And they need locally sensitive policies, he says.

Gordon Brown, Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar are now taking questions.

Q: How can Scottish Labour use this report?

Sarwar starts by thanking Starmer for making people believe a Labour government is possible. That is a transformative change, he says.

He says the report also highlights that, contrary to what the SNP implies, anger and discontent does not just exist in Scotland. It can be found all over the UK, he says.

He says the Labour plan would benefit the whole of the country.

And he says it is wrong to suggest the choice is between independence or the status quo. There is a “vast majority” for change that does not involve Scottish independence, he says.

Keir Starmer is speaking now. He is speaking off the cuff, rather than from a text, but the substance is much the same as it was when he spoke this morning. (See 10.17am.)

Brown says New Labour’s constitutional reform programme had ‘missing element’ because it left centre untouched

Brown says Scotland led the way with devolution. Now all other parts of the UK were following.

But, he says, there was a “missing element” in Labour’s constitutional reform programme; the centre was left untouched, he says.

Now it is time to tackle that, he says.

We have a centre that, in my view, under the Conservatives, is completely out of touch with local needs.

It is out of date because it has not reformed itself.

It’s out of its depth when it tries to micromanage decisions, as we found over the pandemic, that should be made locally.

And of course, we have seen in so many different instances, it’s out of control with corruption, cronyism, contracts to friends. We’re seeing it only in the last few days in some of the scandals that are being reported – abuse of power, abusive of patronage – and no doubt we’ll see in the next few weeks when Boris Johnson has his resignation honours list, and Rishi Sunak has to approve it.





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